Saturday, December 23, 2006


In a report today on studies show that upwards of 85% of people in America said that Santa played a significant role in their early Christmas celebrations as a child. The report also said that 81% of people with some kind of religious affliliation believed in angels, included 97% of evangelical Christians, and 57% of those with no religious views at all. Great. I just don't see the connection. What do angels and Santa have in common? I suppose this is supposed to highlight a spiritual consciousness in the American psyche, but it just plain sad that the belief in Santa and angels is considered an equal comparison.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Talking Christ at Christmas

Don Whitney offers some helpful suggestions for how spark more intimate, meaningful dialogue into your Christmas socializing. Who knows, you might even find yourself talking about the Christ-child at the center of the Christmas season.

  1. What's the best thing that has happened to you since last Christmas?
  2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
  3. What is the most meaningful Christmas gift you've ever received?
  4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you've ever given?
  5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
  6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
  7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
  8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
  9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves a nearly worldwide celebration?
  10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

Last night we asked question #1 at the student Christmas party and it sparked some pretty insightful conversation. The most meaningful response that I heard was when a college student shared that the best thing that has happened since last Christmas was finding our church. Though it is still unclear what this student believes about Jesus, I am grateful that he has found the community at Concord to be a safe place to ask questions and seek Christ.

I hope you find this resource helpful over the next couple of days as you spend time with family and friends. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sex in the Cit(ies)

A recent study released today by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York City based think-tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues reveals that 95% of American adults have had premarital sex. What is interesting about the study is that there is a significant amount of interests and resources poured into abstinence-based programs for young people (12-29 years of age), and yet very few of our resources are invested in encouraging adults to consider abstinence as a viable option for sex and sexuality. According to the study, if the majority of adults have already had sex, what is the point of pouring millions of dollars into abstinence training. Lawrence Finer, the study's author, thinks it would be more effective to provide people with the skills and information they need once they become sexually active. In other words, the study concedes that sexual intercourse before marriage is morally acceptable and the primary issue is making sure that people have safe, disease free sex.

The numbers in this study seem a bit exaggerated, but one thing is clear: sexual promiscuity is rampant both inside and outside the church and abstinence-based education, while a noble attempt to promote chastity and purity, isn't working in sex-crazed, sex-saturated, sex-seducing America.

Friday, December 15, 2006

From the Mouth of Babes

Last night my family was in route to a Christmas party. I was unsure of which entrance to take into the subdivision where our host lived (Mountain Shadows has three entrances). We came off of Banks Road which evenly divides the 3 main entrances. Not knowing where to go specifically I took a right and pulled into the first entrance. Strike one. After we got turned around we got back on the main road and took the second entrance to Mountain Shadows. Strike two.

As I was turning the Xterra around my astute 2-year old Emeline said, "Are we having a problem?"

Emily burst into laughter. I told her, "Yes, we are having a problem"

To which Emeline replied, "Why are we having a problem?" I tried to explain that we didn't know where we were going, but it was at this point that Emeline's immature brain failed in its ability to grasp the concept that we were - though not lost - searching for the right wrong to take us to the party.

Watching Emeline's development has been nothing short of remarkable and dumbfounding. Her vocabularly is ever-evolving, and what has been most spectacular is her ability to express her maturing vocabularly appropriately in conversation. We hear something new from her mouth almost daily and marvel at her ability to put together thoughts and concepts and express them verbally.

This is an amazing testimony to the creativity and brillance of God. I see his handiwork in the lives of my children on a daily basis and it is cause for worship and praise. God is good. He is kind. He is glorious.


Ten left until Christmas. For your procrastinators in the world, that means there are only nine shopping days left, with one of those being a half day on Sunday Dec. 24. If you need suggestions I've got a wish list if you'd like to see it.

This morning as I was reading my morning devotion focused on the Advent, Calvin Miller had an interesting take on Immanuel, meaning "God with us". The incarnation, without question, is the most pivotal, crucial, irreplacable event in human history. As Miller said, in the incarnation, God refused to "watch human despair from the safety of heaven." The incarnation is the living portrait of those two glorious words in Ephesians 2:4 where the Apostle Paul, after vividly depicting the helpless, defiant condition of the human soul says, "But God", then expounds upon the mercy and kindness of God to save and redeem sinners by His enabling grace through faith.

The incarnation is not only an objective, defining, revelatory moment in salvation history, but must also become, for the believer in Jesus, a living reality in our lives. Jesus must also become incarnate in our lives. The presence and power of Christ must be revealed in the ways that we rejoice in this life. Jesus must be revealed as we treasure Him above our earthly treasures. He must be clearly seen as we suffer and face bitter disappointments. For most people, they will not believe in Jesus until they clearly see Jesus' presence in you. Yes, it is true that they will not believe without the Gospel being proclaimed; but people must also see it in practice in our lives.

This thought reminded me of a prayer by John Piper of which I have become quite fond. "Father, let me be a place of eternal refreshment for a hopeless, joy-seeking world of people who do not know they are starved for the glory of God in Jesus Christ." What a wonderful thought as we think about how we might encourage others to seek and savor and worship the Son of God this Christmas.

May this prayer become the theme of your Christmas season as well as mine.
Father, may the way I speak, act, wait and love reveal Your incarnation, the reality that You have made Yourself at home within me. May that be clear to others, so clear that they might whisper the word "Immanuel" as I lose myself in you, as You increase and I decrease. May my joy be found in You in a way that is compelling to others and draws their gaze to the glory of God."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Scoffing at Responsibility

On early Sunday morning December 11 Zachary Dunlevy, an 18-year old college freshman at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, died from alcohol poisoning. The premature death of the young is always troubling to the human spirit. My heart is sorrowful for the grief Dunlevy's family is experiencing. As the small college community gathered Monday morning for an impromptu memorial service, Zachary's father, David said, "Please, learn from this," in a plea to the Limestone faculty and students in attendance.

A troubling quote from college chaplain Ron Singleton makes one wonder what this community and other communities who have been shaken to the core by substance-abuse deaths will learn from Zachary's death. When pressed about the fact that college students under the age of 21 are breaking the law by consuming alcohol, college officials concede that under-age students will go to parties where alcohol is served. Singleton said this in response: "We understand that. We certainly don't condone that. But we have to strike a balance between preaching, which could turn them off, and just saying, 'Hey, be responsible.'"

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." I couldn't help but think of this verse when I read Chaplain Singleton's response to the problem of under-age drinking on college campuses. Essentially what Singleton concedes is the message of the administration is this: It is against the law to consume alcohol under the age of 21. However, we know that many students are going to drink under-age. As long as you are going to drink our advice is this: drink responsibly.

It seems right not to tell college students that under-age drinking is wrong because no one wants to be told what they are doing is wrong. It seems right not to put more stringent penalties in place for students who violate the ethics code at a college or university by drinking under-age. After all, do we want to ruin their future just because they are having a little fun. It is amazing how often our culture rewards people for the folly of youthful indiscretion instead of allowing people to deal with the consequences of their actions. It seems right to encourage responsibility (in regards to alcohol, drugs and sex) because we have conceded these actions as a right to the youthful generation instead of enforcing an ethic of morality and self-control in our institutions of higher learning. But what we are discovering is that what seems right in the eyes of men leads only to death and destruction. Singleton's wisdom is foolish.

The tragic death of an 18-year old early Sunday at Limestone isn't an isolated incident. This same story makes front page news on almost a daily basis in our culture. But what isn't being talked about is the failure of our society to protect students from their folly. This isn't to say that Limestone College is wholly responsible for the death of Zachary Dunlevy. They didn't provide the hard liquor that killed him, and no one made him drink far more than he should have consumed. But this is about fostering a dangerous environment of excess in regards to alcohol, drugs, sex and other vices where administrators, professors and chaplians aren't willing to be more proactive in taking a stand against irresponsible excesses and abuse. It's not enough to concede to the madness of youthful folly and simply offer the instruction "be responsible". 18 year-old students with the drive to impress and desire for acceptance rarely exercise responsibility and self-control in an environment where anything goes; the same is true for most mature adults as well.

I've already alluded to a contributing factor for this culture of excess at our institutions of higher learning. Our society is prone to overlook the misconduct of our youth. This practice cultivates a sense of invicibility and lack of accountability within students. If there are never any significant, real consequences to our actions, then what is to keep us from commiting the same offenses - whether against ourselves or others - time and time again. I know that college's and universities aren't the gate-keepers of morality and the moral compass of student's on our nation's campuses is pointing in countless different directions. But the faculty and administrations of our higher education institutions are supposed to care about their students. As a matter of fact, I bet that this notion of "caring" is a part of the sales pitch of almost every college and university in our country. And if they tell us they care, then they must demonstrate their affection and concern about the well-being of their students in a more constructive way than simply telling students to "be responsible" while engaging in various self-destructive behaviors that far too many colleges and universities condone by their silence.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Nativity Story

I watched The Nativity Story yesterday with about 25 friends from Concord and thought the movie was fantastic. The portrayal of Joseph was moving; Mary was underwhelming, somewhat melancholy, but effective; the scenary and presentation of historical context was engaging; the longing for a Messiah to deliver the Jews from the oppression of Rome and Herod was held in tension quite well; and the ending, particularly the scene in the manger, could have been a bit more subtle. But instead of writing a review of the movie I wanted to share an stinging indictment against my soul as I "witnessed" the events of Jesus' birth into this world unfold.

On multiple occasions during the movie I was emotionally moved. I wept when a young teenage girl was ripped away from the crying arms of her mother to work on behalf of her family's inability to pay their whole tax to Caesar. I rejoiced inwardly at the appearance of Gabriel to Mary as he announced her favor with Yahweh (Luke 1:26-38). I cried again as Mary birthed Jesus into this world in the meager, dirty confines of a stable as her honorable husband Joseph served as a mid-wife. And as I left the theatre my spirit was troubled that it took the efforts of New Line Cinema and director Catherine Hardwicke to make the greatest event in history come alive again in my heart.

Jonathan Edwards said these words several hundred years ago: "Our external delights, our earthly pleasures, our ambition and our reputation, our human relationships, for all of these things, our desires are eager, our appetites strong, our love, warm and affectionate. When it comes to these things our hearts are tender and sensitive, deeply impressed, easily moved, much concern and greatly engaged. We are depressed at our losses and we are excited and joyful about any worldly success or prosperity. But when it comes to spiritual matters, how dull we feel. How heavy and hard our hearts. We can sit and hear of the infinite length and height and breadth and love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving of His infinitely dear Son, and yet sit there cold and unmoved. If we are going to be excited about anything, shouldn't it be our spiritual lives? Is there anything more inspiring, more exciting, more lovable and desirable in heaven or on earth than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We should be utterly humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are in the church."

Has your heart been moved this season by the glorious glad tidings that God became flesh to save His people from their sins? Has the busyness of the season, the excessive amount of gifts to be purchased and demands made on your time made you indifferent to the reality that Messiah has come to deliver His people? Are you more moved, more inspired by the prospect of spending time with relatives and friends than worshiping the Christ-child?

It is my prayer that all of us who confess Jesus as Lord, Master, King, Redeemer, Deliverer, Sustainer, Comforter and Friend would have our affections stirred to new heights as we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world this Christmas.

Friday, December 08, 2006

" yourself..."

I continue to be amazed, humbled, perplexed, aggravated, and encouraged by Piper's latest release What Jesus Demands from the World. If you are looking for a good book to purchase for someone that you love -whether they love Jesus or not - this would be an excellent choice (unfortunately I don't receive any royalties for my endorsement!)

This morning I read about how to love my neighbor with the same commitment I have to my own well-being. The second greatest commandment, or the "royal law" as James calls it (2:8) is the command to "love your neighbor as yourself." It is the two words "as yourself" that are absolutely devastating in the command. The desire to please one's self, the motives of self-preservation and self-satisfaction, are at the root of every human desire. In reality, the desire to please or satisfy oneself is not a sin; it becomes sin when we seek the satisfaction of self, as Piper puts it, "apart from God and apart from whether others find their happiness in God."Essentially, what Jesus demands from us in the royal law is that we would seek and desire for others what we seek and desire for ourselves. This, we know.

But what was striking about the reading this morning is how precisely Piper puts his finger on why we struggle to seek for our neighbor the same things we seek for ourselves. In other words, we don't seek comfort for our neighbor the way we pursue if for ourselves. We don' t put forth the same energy and effort for the joy of others than we do in the pursuit of joy for ourselves. As believers, most of us know this is Jesus' expectation and demand. So why don't we do it? If Jesus' demand is that we seek the same things we seek for ourselves for others - and with the same urgency, zeal and passion that we do in the pursuit of our own satisfaction, why don't we do it?

"This is very threatening and almost overwhelming, because we feel immediately that if we take Jesus seriously, we will not just have to love others 'as we love ourselves', but we will have to love them instead of loving ourselves. That's what it seems like. We fear that if we follow Jesus in this and really devote ourselves to pursuing the happiness of others, then our own desire for happiness will be preempted. The neighbor's claim on my time and energy and creativity will always take priority. So the command to love my neighbor as I love myself really feels like a threat to my own self-love."

This is precisely why we often fail to uphold the royal law in the way that we love our neighbor. Loving this way is a threat to our own self-love, self-satisfaction, and at times, self-preservation. And when we fail to honor the royal law, we are, in actuality, sinning by failing to love God appropriately. The reason for this is the truth that the first command ("Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength") actually sustains the second commandment. Loving God appropriately makes loving your neighbor as yourself possible because it removes the threat that your own happiness is compromised in the pursuit of the happiness and joy of others.

How is this so? When we love God in a way that fills up our heart and gives us deep meaning and satisfaction, we demonstrate that ultimate satisfaction is found in God and in God alone. All of the things that we pursue in self-love - joy, security, hope, love, acceptance, significance - are found in God through His Son Jesus Christ. And once Jesus has satisfied the root longings of the heart, it is easy to live in a way that pursues the satisfaction, preservation and joy of others because all of your longings have already been met in Christ.

What does this mean practically? It reveals that when I fail to love my neighbor as myself, I am not seeking my satisfaction in God through Jesus Christ. This is a stinging rebuke because I like to tell myself that I really find my happiness and significance and joy in Jesus more than I often do in reality. So one way to measure whether or not I am genuinely loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is in the way that I love my neighbor as I love myself. But this is slightly deceptive when observed by onlookers because it is entirely possible that I could give the appearance of loving my neighbor with the same energy with which I pursue my own happiness, and yet the motive for this love be my own self-satisfaction apart from God, a pursuit fueled by the applause or admiration of men. So, my love for my neighbor isn't a full-proof indication of my love for God because we must always consider the intentions of the heart. But nonetheless, it is an indicator because rarely will men pursue the well-being of others with the same earnestness with which they pursue their own without their hearts first being captured and captivated by Jesus.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Dose of Robitussin

I've admittedly got a pretty foggy memory about my childhood. My wife wonders what kind of trauma I experienced that wiped my mind clean of the kind of childhood memories that are so precious to her. I think I know the answer. Robitussin. I'm not sure how often I was forced to drink Robitussin, but it was enough. When a kid gets a cough, the kid gets a hearty dose of Robitussin. I'm not sure there is actually any medicinal value to the stuff. I think the taste actually scares the virus right out of the body. It's the kind of medicine that, when forced to take it, you get better real quick - whether you actually feel better or not, simply because you don't want to have to take any more swigs of the nasty red stuff. There's no playing sick when Robitussin is on the table.

The way I feel about Robitussin is pretty much how I feel about the book of James tonight. The letter of James is revered for its practical insight and application to the everyday life lived for Jesus. But James isn't pleasant for those sarcastic, witty (always a self-declaration), clever redeemed members of the Kingdom of God.

Several weeks ago I was teaching from James 3:1-12 about the tongue. In an honest moment of self-deprecation and transparency I told the students that I felt completely unqualified to teach this particular passage, primarily because I struggle so mightily to honor God with my tongue. Granted, in my defense, James makes it clear that we all struggle in this regard ("...if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man..."; 3:2). And there is some solace in this fact, but the reality that we all struggle to honor God in the way that we speak does not ulimately absolve us of the responsibility to honor God with our mouths with greater consistency.

Just when you think you are out of the woods with James on this particular issue he brings it back to the surface in 4:11-12. Only a few words after James tells us that God opposes the proud, and the proud are those who show themselves above other people, and God exalts the humble, those who see themselves rightly in light of God's holiness and their sinfulness, a perspective that keeps us from being self-righteous or superior when we size ourselves up against others, James again address our speech.

"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge." James 4:11

Yes, when James speaks of "evil", he is talking about slander, the kind of reputation miring comments made about others as we huddle in the dark corners of our houses of worship. A setting where those whose character and reputation we are verbally soiling have no opportunity or forum to defend themselves. But his statement is broader. He is also speaking about speech that runs others down. Speech motivated by envy, jealousy, cruelty, hatred, ridicule and humiliation. Speech intended to pad our internal resume and make us feel better about ourselves as our venom fills the veins of our victims and hurriedly rushes to the heart.

The reality about our culture is that many people (perhaps even you) believe that if the information being shared is true, then it isn't slander. When it is true, we feel we have a moral obligation to share or reveal it. Or if we say what needs to be said face-to-face, then somehow it is okay. It may be true that truth needs to surface, but what many of us fail to do is appropriately deal with our own sin before becoming a truth-teller, and thus we violate the principles set forth by Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

James tells us that speaking evil against our brothers is a serious sin. It is serious for two reasons: 1) It violates the royal law (James 2:8) because it is a failure to love our brother as we love ourselves; 2) It is an act of mutiny against the rightful authority of God because we usurp God as judge.

Controlling the tongue is difficult for all; it seems impossible for some, particularly for those of us whose words are often tainted with sarcasm, often playful, sometimes hurtful, disguised as cleverness. And let's be honest. Who are the recepients of our sarcastic barbs? Almost always people. Some people we love. Some people we only know from a distance. Always aimed at our critics. We rarely waste our sarcasm on inanimate objects. Yes, we may not often be guilty of slander, but the sarcastic are often guilty of running others down with their words.

James, thanks for the healthy dose of Robitussin today. God, help us, help me, speak in a way that adorns the Gospel. I need your grace - desperately. Amen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does It Help Me Run Well?

David Rainer posted this blog on his site. Check out what Piper has to say about the race of faith as we consider how much immersion into culture is appropriate, where we should draw the line concerning the things we embrace regarding entertainment, alcohol, dress, etc. It is something every confessing believer in Jesus should read.

A Year in Retrospect

I borrowed this idea from my friend Meredith. I really hope she doesn't mind.

1) Was 2006 a good year for you? Yes, it was a great year.
2) What was your favorite moment of the year? Too easy. The birth of my daughter, Cameron Alysse.
3) What was your least favorite moment of the year? Confessing (to that person) that I have not loved a brother in Christ well.
4) Where were you when 2006 began? I honestly don't remember if I was in Chattanooga or South Carolina. Sad.
5) Whom were you with? The fact that I have no idea tells you how memorable it was. I was probably asleep, in bed, with my bride.
6) Where will you be when 2006 ends? Clarity conference with Concord students.
7) Whom will you be with when 2006 ends? Let's see...Candace, Jillian, Olivia, Brooke, Josh, Adam, Shane, Ben, Michelle, Colton, Jackie, James, Courtney, Kyle, Corinne, Andrew, Abbey, Kendra, some student I've never met, and some adults while the band Leeland is rockin' the house.
8) Did you keep your New Year's resolution of 2006? I never make resolutions.
9) Do you have a New Year's resolution for 2007? I resolve not to resolve anything.
10) Did you fall in love in 2006? Yes.
11) If yes, with whom? Ms. Rice Krispy Treat
12) If yes, do they know? I hope so.
13) Are you still in love with them? Always and forever.
14) Do you regret it? No.
15) Did you breakup with anyone in 2006? No.
16) Did you make any new friends in 2006? Yes. Well, I would say that they are more like acquaintance's, but it was a pleasure to meet and know them.
17) Who are your favorite new friends? This is such an unfair question. What if my "non-favorite" friends read this and boycott our friendship. Or what if my "old" friends read this and think I've replaced them with an upgrade model?
18) What was your favorite month of 2006? May was a really good month, but it's impossible to bypass July since it's the month I was born (5th) and Cameron was born (11th).
19) Did you travel outside of the US in 2006? Yes. Peru. Amazing country. Beautiful people.
20) How many different states did you travel to in 2006? Let's see...Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Minnesota.
21) Did you lose anybody close to you in 2006? Not particularly close to me, but close to people I care about.
22) Did you miss anybody in the past year? I miss David Rainer.
23) What was your favorite movie that you saw in 2006? Nothing really stands out. I didn't even watch that many movies (small children will do that to you). However, I did really enjoy Mission Impossible III.
24) What was your favorite song during 2006? :::shoulder shrug accompaning blank stare:::
25) What was your favorite record from 2006? I wore Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God out for the past two years; The Fray's How to Save a Life ; Jars of Clay's Good Monsters;
26) Did you see any concerts this year? Charlie Hall.
27) Did you have a favorite concert in 2006? No. I refuse to declare Charlie Hall winner by default.
28) Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2006? Define "a lot". Kidding. No.
29) Did you do a lot of drugs in 2006? I have to agree with Meredith that this is a dumb question.
30) Did you hope for something you didn't get in 2006? Of course, but it doesn't mean the hope proved false.
31) Did you do anything you're ashamed of this year? Too often.
32) What was the biggest lie you told in 2006? Too many promises made (to God), too few kept. Thank God for the Gospel.
33) What was the worst lie someone told you? I am a self-made, self-sufficient, self-sustaining man. Advertisers tell me this everyday.
34) Did you treat somebody badly in 2006? Yes, but for only 1/2 the year, and not as bad as 2005. This isn't a boast; it's a blessing.
35) Did somebody treat you badly in 2006? To my face, not that I am aware of.
36) How much money did you spend in 2006? Almost all that I have.
37) What was your proudest moment of 2006? My proudest is my most humiliating as I confessed a failure to love well, and asked for grace to love better. But my boast is not in my obedient response, but in God's enabling grace to respond obediently.
38) What was your most embarrassing moment of 2006? Tearing the crotch of my jeans minutes before teaching the students at Concord while playing ping-pong.
39) If you could go back in time to any moment of 2006 and change something, what would it be? There was a transforming, redemptive, character-forming reason for every act of obedience and defiance in 2006. I pray that God uses both monumental triumphs and horrendous defeats to make me more like Jesus.
40) What are your plans for 2007? Love God, my family, my neighbors and my enemies well.

Friday, December 01, 2006

God, Money & Time

My previous post regarding entrepreneurism and the Kingdom has prompted some good discussion. Since everyone won't likely read all the comments posted, I thought I would post some of them and respond. If you are in the dark and don't know where this is coming from, be sure to read the post "Is Entrepreneurism Bad for Christianity?"

Jo said...."As to the question, would a good cause justify the outrageous price? Does the good old golden rule apply? ...however you want people to treat you, so treat them...Mt.7:12"

Wes replied..."Not greedy. Smart. Multiplying my talents. Matthew 25:15. Just because you make money doesn’t mean you “love” it in a sinful way. Our economic system allows people to take products and sell them for a profit. Those folks at circuit city worked hard for what they received from selling those systems. They probably woke up in the middle of the night and waited in that line for a couple of days. I am sure that wasn’t very FUN. Jacking up prices on legitimate needs such as food is probably immoral, but entertainment devices are fair “gain”.

I think Jo raises a legitimate point. Would you want someone to charge you an amount excessively above manufacturers cost at an unfair value simply because they can, and if so, does this violate the Kingdom principle of treating others as you would want them to treat you? Even if the product being purchased is not an essential (i.e., food, clothing, medicine, etc), is it right, in the eyes of God, to charge someone exceedingly more than is necessary to cover the manufacturer's cost and earn a legitimate income simply because demand for the product dictates that you can? For example, several years ago a student of mine purchased a guitar. After playing the guitar for awhile he found he wasn't satisfied with it and desired to upgrade to a different model guitar. He sold his guitar to another individual, even though he wasn't personally satisfied with the performance of the guitar (and he always had technical problems with it), for more than the price he purchased the instrument. Now some might say he was a savy buisinessman. I felt like he defrauded the new buyer.

Wes argued that our system of economics justifies taking products and selling them for a profit. Again, I guess the question is, "How much profit is excessive, particularly for individuals who claim to love Jesus and are supposedly Kingdom-minded? When does good, practical, American buisness practice become greed?"

And then there is the issue of time.

Jo said..."So was spending several days in line for the purpose of turning a handsome profit the best use of their time for Kingdom purposes?"

Wes replied..."Sure. All they had to do was be purposeful about using their time to glorify God. For one example, they could have used the publicity they received and explained to the public how their real treasure is in heaven and that God loves when his children are wise and God honoring with money. "

I would have to agree with Wes that these two Christian couples who purchased the PS3 systems from Circuit City only to sell them for a profit could in fact use the time they had to wait in a very purposeful way that would glorify God. But I would suggest that it would need to be more purposeful than explaining to the public that their real treasure is in heaven. Honestly, those words would fall on deaf ears because the astute listener would say, perhaps cynically, if your treasure is in heaven, why do you need to sell a PS3 for profit? If they are using their time in line to speak of Christ, prayer, spend time in the Scriptures, etc, then they may have redeemed their time appropriately.

But again, something doesn't feel right about the whole situation. My sense is that even if these two Christian couples were telling everyone they saw about Jesus, as soon as those individuals caught wind that they were buying this entertainment system only to sell it at a ridiculous price to someone else, all of their words about Jesus and the Kingdom would become meaningless. No matter how we choose to justify this situation, it gives the appearance of a greedy heart, even if, in fact, greed is and was not a motivating factor. The only thing that might have justified their actions would be if they were selling these systems to raise support for missions or a child dying of cancer.

From a practical, secular-minded point of view, it seems that there is nothing wrong with selling something for more than it is worth. It may be good buisness to prey on the insatiable desires of the consumer-driven American public. It is certainly what makes our economy one of the most stable in the world and has provided an abundance of comforts and luxuries for us. However, those of us in Christ are not of this world. We are called to think "other-worldly". We are challenged by Jesus, not to think about money through the grid of American economics and supply and demand, but through the lens of the Kingdom which should impact all that we do.

A final word. For many Westerner's, Christmas is the one time of the year that we literally shower one another, particularly our children, with the latests gadgets and toys. Many parents feel pressured to provide for their children exactly what they desire in order to make the holiday "special". This often means that parents with limited financial means go in debt to provide for their children what they desire. I am certainly not arguing that this is wise or necessary, but simply making a cultural observation. With the topic in mind, doesn't it seem that selling one of the season's hottest, most desired products for an exaggerated, inflated price, all in hopes of making a significant profit, is an intentional ploy to exploit and prey on the misguided pursuits of consumers? Whether it is right for a family to accrue significant debt to purchase for their children what their family cannot afford is not the issue (although this clearly is not a discerning use of income). The issue is whether or not it is right for Christian consumers to contribute to the financial mismanagement and upside-down priorities of the Western consumer. Is this the kind of Kingdom legacy we want to be known for?

This has been an enjoyable discussion and if you'd like to chime in some more, please do. Thanks Jo and Wes for taking the time to respond.